May 18, 2004
Contact: Noah Greenwald, Ctr. for Biological Diversity, 503-243-6643
THREE SPECIES OF SOUTHWEST NATIVE FISH IN TROUBLE: BUSH ADMINISTRATION DRAGS ITS FEET PROTECTING THEM
CBD FILES SUIT TO PROTECT GILA CHUB AND TAKES FIRST STEP IN SUIT TO PROTECT ROUNDTAIL AND HEADWATER CHUBS
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to issue a final rule listing the Gila chub as an endangered species. CBD also filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the agency for similarly failing to respond to a petition to list the roundtail and headwater chubs as endangered. Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Fish and Wildlife has one year to issue a final rule after proposing to list a species, which they did for the Gila chub August 9, 2002, and one year to determine whether a species merits listing, following receipt of a petition. CBD submitted a petition to list the two chub species April 2, 2003.
“Given that the Bush Administration has the worst record for enforcing the ESA in history, it is not surprising that they are once again violating the law,” states Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with CBD. “To date, they have only listed 31 species compared to 394 under the first term of the Clinton Administration.” All 31 species listed by the Bush Administration followed lawsuits.
The three native fish species are imperiled by a combination of habitat loss to livestock grazing, water diversion, urban development and other factors, and the widespread invasion of exotic species, such as bull frogs and striped bass, which prey on and out compete the natives. It is not an exaggeration to say that these factors are currently decimating nearly the entire native fauna of southwest rivers and streams, including both fish and amphibians. The Desert Fishes Council, for example, concluded in a recent report that of 20 fish species native to the Gila River Basin, 14 are currently listed or proposed for listing as threatened or endangered, and most are still declining.
“All three fish species need immediate protection to avoid extinction, yet the Bush Administration is dragging its feet protecting them,” states Greenwald. “Their strategy is to not protect species until someone sues them.”
Listing of the three fish will lead to greater habitat protection, including limits on riparian livestock grazing and restrictions on development in the species habitat. It will also bring in federal dollars for non-native removals and other recovery efforts.